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By Sadab Kitatta Kaaya. 27 April 2015, The Observer (Uganda)
In exchange for supporting his unchallenged re-election run within the party, NRM incumbent MPs have asked President Museveni for Shs 300m each for their re-election campaign. The request, The Observer has learnt, was made at the party’s last retreat at Kyankwanzi in February. The MPs, insider sources said, asked their party chairman to support them financially in the forthcoming primary elections.
Party sources said the MPs asked for Shs 300m as a reward for endorsing the sole candidacy resolution that would effectively cushion Museveni from competition within NRM. To persuade Museveni to endorse their cash request, the MPs reportedly told him that Amama Mbabazi, the party’s ousted secretary general and the country’s former premier, had paid candidates Shs 100m to run against them.
“At first some of us wanted him [Museveni] to declare that there would be no primaries in our constituencies, but that was rejected because it would portray the party as undemocratic. That is how the idea of the money came in,” an NRM MP told The Observer last week. However, Museveni reportedly rejected this figure because it was too big.
With Museveni seemingly reluctant to grant their wish, the MPs indicated that they could boycott debate on electoral and constitutional reforms that were expected to be tabled in Parliament. The reforms contained in the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 will be tabled when Parliament reconvenes this week, according to Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi. “The bill was published in the [Uganda] gazette [on Friday, April 24] and will be tabled for the first reading when Parliament resumes next week,” Ruhindi told The Observer at the weekend.
To dissuade the MPs against a boycott, Museveni reportedly asked them to select a team of five MPs that would negotiate with him on their behalf. Most MPs interviewed at the weekend for this story did not know who the negotiators are but State House sources named Justine Kasule Lumumba (NRM secretary general), Rose Namayanja Nsereko (Treasurer), Richard Todwong (deputy secretary general), Evelyn Anite (minister of state for Youth and Children affairs) to be part of the team.
Others are Peter Ogwang (caucus vice chairperson), Rosemary Najjemba (state minister for Urban Development) and Rosemary Nansubuga Sseninde (Wakiso Woman MP). “He agreed to give us some money but not the entire figure [of Shs 300m] we had demanded; the question now is how much and when,” the MP said. Were it to be offered, a Shs 300m package for each of the more than 260 NRM MPs would translate into a Shs 78bn windfall to the legislators. As with many other ‘facilitations’ to MPs of the ruling party, the source of such money would be a matter of public concern.
While NRM could claim that these are party funds, the party’s known sources of funding – such as contributions by party MPs – rarely add up to the huge sums from the party chairman. This often amplifies opposition cries that the ruling party is illegally funded by Ugandan taxpayers. During the 2011 election campaigns, Museveni sanctioned the payment of Shs 20m to each of the MPs in the 8th Parliament under the pretext of monitoring Naads activities in their constituencies.
This was in addition to another Shs 20m that was given to NRM parliamentary candidates. Some, depending on the amount of threat they faced from opposition candidates, were given more money to beat off the challenge.
Last year, after MPs passed a resolution that no one should challenge Museveni for the party chair and presidential candidacy in 2016, there were reports – denied by NRM – that MPs got Shs 110 million each. Namayanja, the NRM treasurer, said she was not aware of any deal between the NRM MPs and President Museveni over the sole candidature issue. Neither was she part of any negotiation team.
She said: “I was not even in Kyankwanzi for most of the time. I have read those reports [about MPs asking for Shs 300 million] but I think they are not true.” Interviewed on Saturday, Ogwang dismissed the Shs 300m claim as untrue. “I tell you this as my brother that honestly, that information is not true; how can you give money to one group and leave out the others? That will be dividing the party,” Ogwang said.
He said the “falsehoods” are being peddled by NRM haters who want to split the party. “Constituencies are entirely open for everyone to contest. Yes incumbents enjoy some advantage but they have been making their savings and will rely on the small money that they saved for the elections,” Ogwang said. He said the caucus also has some reasonable amount of money on its bank account. “Because of the financial discipline of the former leaders of the caucus, we have some money available for any activity,” Ogwang said.